Monday, April 15, 2024
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Cocktail Trends for Gatherings

By M+E Staff

What are innovative bartenders mixing these days? That’s what Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, a leading distributor of beverage alcohol, set out to discover during their coast-to-coast Liquid Insights Tour. Over 111 days, Brian Masilionis, the distributor’s director of national accounts and strategy, led a team of industry-leading mixologists to sample more than 400 drinks in 83 of the hottest restaurants, bars and hotels across the country. If you want your next gathering to include of-the-moment beverages, you’ll be interested in their findings.

Here are some of the trends the Liquid Insights Tour discovered:

Uncommon Combinations: Bartenders were mixing spirits not commonly used together to create new and interesting cocktail flavor profiles. Creative combinations included a cocktail in Houston that combined Scotch and corn liqueur, one from Kansas City that mixed rum and cognac, another in Chicago using gin and mezcal, and a drink in Las Vegas that combined bourbon and añejo tequila.

Beyond Basic Balancers: The team found many cocktails that were made using an innovative variety of methods or modifiers to balance the drink or add layers of flavor. These included: 

  • The use of acids, such as Meyer lemon, lime, blood orange, grapefruit, verjus (also known as verjuice) or acid powder.
  • Using sugars and syrups, such as burnt sugar, raw or unrefined sugar products (e.g., Turbinado, Demerara or black sugar), local honey, and in-house flavored syrups using ingredients like lavender, chamomile or even cola.
  • Incorporating salt, such as Black Lava, Himalayan, tajin, hibiscus, corn, gusano, Yukari or smoked salt to elevate flavors (and calling out the use of salt in the drink menu descriptions).
  • Herbs, coffee, tea and spices, including herbal or spice-based liqueurs such as Chartreuse, Campari or Falernum; incorporating coffee or tea such as chamomile, green tea, espresso and cold brew; using peppers and spices such as Espelette, jalapeno, chili, Kashmiri, ginger and galangal; or incorporating a variety of bitters such as Angostura, and Amaros such as Nonino, Averna or Fernet.
  • The use of fats beyond animal fats, such as clarified milk, egg whites or whole egg, butter, coconut and olive oil and other plant-based fats, to add a luxurious smoothness or creaminess to cocktails.
  • The use of ice and heat such as stamped, flavored and smoked ice; the use of various forms of ice such as shaved and blended ice; and the use of flame, chilled vapor and heat in mixology. 

Caffeinated Comeback: Once the darling of the 90s bar scene, the Espresso Martini took center stage as the standout cocktail of the tour. Around the country, mixologists are giving new life into this classic, incorporating a variety of creative ingredients such as amaro and coffee liqueurs or brandy with espresso or cold brew. 

Sophisticated and Spirit-Free: Non-alcoholic offerings at the country’s top bars, restaurants and hotels are now just as elevated, delicious, and pricey as their alcoholic counterparts, featuring similar ingredients, flavors and presentations just without alcohol. 

Batching for Speed and Service: Top bartenders continue to innovate around batching their cocktails, including both partial (batching only non-perishable items) and full batching, and using citric and/or malic acid to extend freshness and maintain citrus flavor. The driving force behind this trend is the need for speed and to improve quality and consistency in cocktail preparation, which allows for more time to connect with guests. 

Entertaining Experience Enhancements: Adding flair to the cocktail experience with the use of vapors—air, smoke or torch; the use of unique glassware; or the return of communal drinks to be shared. All help create memorable moments for consumers.